All posts in Environmental Impact Assessment

Port Clarence Biomass and Prism Planning are celebrating today after Stockton Council granted planning permission for a new 49 MW power station on land close to the northern side of the Transporter Bridge at Port Clarence which will burn waste wood. This is great news for Stockton and Teesside and Prism are pleased to have been able to help with this important project. At a time when the security of gas supplies from Russia is very much in the media spotlight after recent events it is great to see that Stockton is helping to deliver practical alternatives. The work required to get this permission in place has been done in a record time and it’s a tribute to the whole team who have worked so well with Stockton Council’s members and officers to iron out all the issues and get the permission in place. From day one of the project we have also worked alongside the financiers of the project and we believe this scheme will come forward rapidly on the site. The lack of objection to the scheme meant that the final decision was made by officers at Stockton but Councillors and the MP had followed the debate closely and supported the proposals. The applicants have built a number of similar power stations around the UK and have a track record of delivery. They have committed to seek to use local labour and suppliers in the project which is excellent news for the Tees Valley as the capital cost of the scheme is estimated to be around £160 million.
Planning permission has just been granted by Hambleton District Council for new vertical access wind turbines at the site of AMR Autos near Great Ayton. The garage already have outstanding green credentials through installing LPG systems to cars and generate a lot of their own power needs from Photo Voltaic panels on the roof. The two new turbines will help out on the windier winter days.
 
The turbines aren’t your average windmills that give rise to so much controversy. They are elegant horizontal machines that are near silent in their operation and are ideally suited to residential areas. Indeed avid followers of the Olympics will have seen them turning away in the main Olympic park looking more like artistic sculptures than pieces of technical wizardry.

Its hoped that these machines will help gain more widespread acceptance than their big brother counterparts and allow small wind turbine generation to become more familiar and common place.

We wrote back in April about the impacts of an EU ruling which effectively includes demolition in the definition of development used to over-arch the EIA statute. Now if that all sounds like gobbledygook to you don’t worry, we’re going to explain… This places significant hurdles in front of the UK’s faltering construction industry, which already wrestles with an abundance of red tape.

…But what is EIA you ask?

It is a Directive which has been placed upon the UK through European Law. It requires a detailed assessment of the effects of appropriate development projects on the environment prior to development consent being granted. Quite importantly, the requirement to undergo an EIA, or an assessment into if an EIA is necessary is not discretionary for certain ‘types’ of development. If you are unsure on this point, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. The team at Prism is here to help!

The resulting document aims to ensure that the decision maker for a project makes a proper judgement in the full knowledge of any likely significant effects on the environment.

The task of undergoing an EIA is extremely procedural with a number of ‘hoops to be jumped through’ in order to satisfy the regulations. The most frequently referred to are Screening and Scoping. Screening is the process of determining if an EIA is necessary for an application and considers Schedule 1, 2 and 3 of the regulations. Scoping follows the screening in determining what needs to be included in the baseline assessment and analysis of the findings.

…and how is that Changing?

Prospective applicants can formally request the Local Planning Authority to undertake a Screening and Scoping opinion. The answers which result from such a request are fundamental and can, ultimately, undermine the work which follows if not completed correctly or to a satisfied standard. This change comes through the increasing threat of objectors mounting Judicial reviews.

On this point, the message is simple – to avoid the chance of Judicial Review quashing otherwise sound planning permissions, you must ensure that the evidence base on which a decision is given is sound, even if this has come from the Planning Authority themselves.

The second change shows its head through significant amount of case law developing on EIA. These developments have prompted Communities and Local Governments to undergo a consolidation of the EIA regulations 1999 along with some ‘tweaks’ to the statute. The consultation (which has now closed) can be found here.

These updated regulations are due late June early July (2011) but within the tweaks are some alarmingly profound changes to the thresholds of developments appearing in Schedule 2, within which Screening must be sought.

The proposed changes include:

  1. When submitting an application change/extend an existing development, the thresholds will be applied to the development as a whole once modified.
  2. Any change to a Schedule 1 development will be subject to its own EIA independently of whether the development is included in Schedule 1, 2 or 3.
  3. If an EIA Screening decision comes back negative (ie. Screening is not required) then the correct justification must be given, just as if the screening was required.
  4. If an application has been awarded outline permission but the EIA covers all the aspects of any matters reserved. It will no longer be necessary to re-consult on that same EIA.
  5. Changes to the threshold levels for wind farms to require EIA for the installation of more than 2 turbines; or where the total height of any turbine (including the rotor blade) exceeds 18 metres in height.
  6. New development categories to be added to Schedule 1 and 2 as required through the recent EIA Directive 2009/31/EC